The People Issue 2022: Professor and Mentor Tameka Winston | Cover Story










The biography of dr. Tameka Winston is full of accolades. She has a Ph.D. in Education from Tennessee State University, where she is now Chair of the Communications Department and Professor of Communications. She has received multiple awards, including TSU’s Woman of Legend and Merit Award and the 2017 Nashville ATHENA Award, presented annually to an outstanding female leader. She is the only faculty member to have twice received the Professor of the Year award from TSU’s College of Liberal Arts. She is an advisor to the University of Delta, Agbor, Nigeria while the faculty of that school is building their communications program and she collects books to send to the Agbor community each year. By all accounts, Winston is an influential Nashvillian.

But when we meet at the John Seigenthaler Center on the Vanderbilt University campus, she prefers to talk about her humble beginnings. Winston grew up in a small shotgun house in Belzoni, Miss. on. Neither of her grandfathers could read or write, and her grandmother urged her to go to college and excel.

She wanted to meet in the building named after the Legendary Tennessee Editor and journalist because that’s why she first came to Nashville in 1999. As a junior at Alcorn State University in Mississippi, Winston was selected for the Chips Quinn Scholars Program for Diversity in Journalism, a paid internship funded by the United States todayJohn C. Quinn, founding editor and longtime president of the Gannett Corporation, to provide color editing experience to college students. It was – and still is – a program of the Freedom Forum in Washington, DC. The Institute flew Winston and her cohort to Washington for specialized training in broadcast or print journalism, and then they set off on their assignments.

But her first job at a daily newspaper in Mississippi didn’t work out. It was the early days of email, and Winston’s colleague at Chips Quinn sent a Jokey forward to the production printer instead of the printer next to his desk. She rushed to get it and they were both fired on the spot. But John Quinn called her personally to get it right: Would she like to do an internship in Nashville at the First Amendment Center?

Seigenthaler founded the First Amendment Center in 1991, with offices in Washington and Nashville, to “help promote appreciation and understanding of the values ​​on which the United States was built.” (Following Seigenthaler’s death in 2014, Vanderbilt named the center after him.) Winston didn’t have a car or money, but Quinn assured her that she could stay at Vanderbilt Village for free and go straight to work every day. She did.

“Mr. Seigenthaler’s team took care of me,” Winston says. They took her to the grocery store and to the mall. They drove her to assignments. Seigenthaler was at the DC office and came to Nashville every few months, and he was always seeing each other with the interns to discuss their work.”I’ll never forget that kind of kindness,” she says.

Quinn kept in touch with Winston for the rest of his life, as he did with many of his interns. She would receive his handwritten letters of advice and encouragement. Before joining the faculty at TSU, she tried her hand at being a middle school teacher. She struggled with that path when she received such a letter from Quinn with a message: “Remember, you were once that age.”

She brings this spirit to her work at TSU and particularly to her interactions with her own charges. She founded the Black Docs mentoring program, through which she mentors color scholars pursuing PhDs across the country. Your Sirius XM radio show Black Documents — paused but slated to resume in the fall — invites five black female doctors who are experts in various fields to talk about their lives and work.

Winston is an author of textbooks in communication studies. While this doesn’t sound glamorous at first, she sees it as a way to help black students reflect themselves in their studies. “For me, what I saw in undergraduate school wasn’t a direct reflection of African-American work,” she says. “And I wanted that to be recorded — our story, too.”

Quinn had a saying that he repeated to his charges about racism, especially during their training sessions as college students. Winston still remembers it today. “You will continue to rise. Don’t let the bastards get you down.”


The People edition 2022

Our profiles of some of Nashville’s most interesting people, from a sought-after local actor to a wrestling legend, former Miss Tennessee and more

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